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Was the Cuban Missile Crisis a turning point in Relations between the Superpowers?

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Introduction

Mahdi Zarringhalam History Coursework: The Cuban Missile Crisis Was the Cuban Missile Crisis a turning point in Relations between the Superpowers? The Cuban Missile crisis is recognised by the entire world to have been one of the most dangerously fragile points in the history of conflicts between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. Surely after it was over, after the US and USSR had realized they had nearly thrown the world into nuclear war, after an event that could ultimately have spelt the planets doom, changes were bound to be made in order to stop anything like the missile crisis from happening again in both the near and far future. So, what steps were taken by the superpowers that would ensure the worlds safety from then on? And more importantly, can the events that took place during October of 1962 on Cuba, be considered a turning point in relations between the US and USSR, and if yes how and to what extent? There are a number of points that can be analysed in this topic that will show evidence of progress and in some cases contradictory evidence to the improvement in the superpowers' relations after the Cuban Missile crisis. In the days just after the crisis one of J.F Kennedy's advisers said to the press, "Having come so close to the edge, we must make it our business not to pass this way again". Though this was easier said than done. Kennedy and Khrushchev lay the situation down in front of them and decided what was the wisest thing to do first of all. One of the main aspects of the crisis that made it particularly dangerous was the fact that communications between the White House and the Kremlin were extremely poor. Before and during the crisis messages were sent via letters or telegraphs. The danger of this was that so many important decisions were being made on behalf of these messages and the fact is that it was taking ...read more.

Middle

However the treaties signed were efficient in only stopping the spread of arms but not the reduction of weapons being produced. This did not happen until 1988, after Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met in 1987 where they secured a deal that would reduce the amount of arms the powers possessed. It was recognised by both sides as a historic moment. The third point to be looked at is the 'Space Race'. The race was a competition between the two superpowers to see who was technically and scientifically more advanced. New nuclear weapons capabilities were one thing yet it was far out of the league of space science, notably in the area of space travel. It was believed that the victor of the space race would determine which ideology, capitalism or communism was better. The first step into the space race began before the 'Cuban Missile Crisis' when on the 4th October 1957 the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. The satellite carried a radio transmitter which sent signals back to earth until Sputnik burned up in the atmosphere 92 days later. This was followed up the year before the Cuban Missile crisis on 12th April 1961, when the Russian Yuri Gagarin blasted off from earth aboard a rocket and entered space. He was the first cosmonaut - Russian for astronaut. These early victories for the USSR were massive propaganda factors for the Soviets. The US did also start to advance in the space race to the Soviet's status in space science; they achieved victories such as the passing of Venus in 1962 by the Mariner 2, the first successful planetary space probe. Before 'Cuba' the US and USSR were as suspicious of each other as ever, there were literally no communications between their space engineering or science research departments of the two powers. After the Missile crisis due to general improvements in communications this did start to change. ...read more.

Conclusion

Even though a second Cold War broke out after the communications brake through, the US and USSR got back on good terms quite quickly and they resumed their efforts in improving relations. This cold war was definitely a set back but the speed at which the situation changed shows that the two sides were eager to improve things between them, instead of over half a century it took them less than a decade to resume a stable rate of play. The arms Race (after the crisis) showed us two things in my view... both sides were interested in stopping the spread of nuclear arms and denying other smaller countries of nuclear capabilities, this of course is a good thing but the other point I learned from this scenario is that the powers were too proud of their nuclear technology, they weren't prepared to stop developing, and modernizing their weapons and they continued producing them at a terrible rate, this indicates perhaps the mistrust that still existed between the US and USSR. This was dealt with much later on. However it cannot be denied that the superpowers did attempt to stop the spread of arms and this can definitely be viewed as a turning point in relations. The space race also was effective in improving relations after the missile crisis. It engaged both sides in a competition and history has often shown us that competing in friendly terms is usually excellent for relations. Also the combined efforts in the race when they started to work together showed the world that the United States and Soviet Union could cooperate and work as a team. As for the policy of d�tente, I think this shaped the rate of improvement in relations between the superpowers and ultimately I would say the introduction of d�tente was a key turning point in the relations between the US and USSR after the Cuban missile crisis, they took themselves on quite a bumpy ride, but in the end their relations definitely improved after the crisis and the effect of that can still be seen today. ...read more.

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